Pi Attitude Zone: Ethics & Altruism

Boobs On Brazilian Beaches: In Or Out?

Pi has learned that women who take their bikini-tops off on Brazilian beaches are officially “obscene”.  The practice has been illegal since the 1940s, and invites penalties of up to three-to-twelve months in jail.

Which is odd, since young Brazilians are in many ways among the least prudish people anywhere.  In Carnival Week in São Palo, festive floats carrying gaily-costumed but noticeably bare-breasted female revelers have become a commonplace.  For a few days each year these comely creatures adorn the front pages of the popular color newspapers.  The more daring “battery muses” (baterias are the Samba Schools’ drum bands, led in procession by glamorous mascot girls or musas) wear nothing but paint and a tiny “modesty patch” covering a zone normally obscured by panties.  It would be fair to say that Brazilians in general have a pretty laissez-faire attitude to the celebration of the naked female form.

So... it’s okay for girls to be naked in a carnival parade... but not braless on a beach.  The latter  convention has done wonders for sales of the world’s skimpiest bikinis, covering the bare (sic) minimum that official insistence on modesty requires.  One bizarre side-effect is that glamour pictures in Brazilian girlie magazines invariably show the girls’ assets in two-tone, with most of their bodies an attractive golden brown, but with a strikingly delineated pale-skinned triangle surrounding (but only just) each nipple.  The effect can be surreal:  raunch meets maidenly modesty.  Any moça inadvertently revealing that she has an all-over tan theoretically risks the full wrath of the law.

Now the authorities are cautiously considering rescinding the ban, and allowing topless sunbathing.  The catalyst may be the impending Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, which will host visitors from countries where nudity on beaches has been unremarkable at least since the 1960s.

Several thousand Brazilian women announced that they would turn up and support a topless demonstration on Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema Beach, to protest the “anachronistic” insistence on bikini tops.  Commented one committed young beachgoer, "It's a false puritanism, and indicative of our macho culture, that we have a law forbidding that a woman can go topless”.  Brazilian starlet Cristina Flores drew widespread public sympathy (and massive publicity) when she was detained by a police beach patrol during a topless photo-shoot.

But the big beach demonstration hardly went as planned.  A few topless female demonstrators turned out, if that’s the appropriate phrase, but they were heavily outnumbered by press photographers with zoom lenses and crowds of leering males.  A few sympathetic men painted crude circular boobs on themselves with lipstick, as a humorous gesture of solidarity towards their girlfriends, but this only exacerbated what was in the end a heavily male-dominated event, punctuated with a live soundtrack of wolf-whistles. 

Pi can’t help reminding readers about the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Demonstration organizer Ana Rios, whose idea had been to raise awareness of prejudice against women in Brazil, commented ruefully “What really amazes me is the number of men who came here just to see women's chests”.

Zone: Ethics & Altruism Country: Latin America Product –